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Stereotyping females stifles talent

Friday was International Women’s Day. Various arts organisations had events to celebrate female talent on the local arts scene.

Report by Godwin Muzari

Prominent among the organisers was Pamberi Trust, which runs the Sistaz Open Mic session at the Book Café.

A number of popular female musicians and poets came together to celebrate the day, which is commemorated annually on March 8 across the world.

In the same manner, the organisation marks the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence and the event was meant to send a message of solidarity with women in general and female artists in particular.

Musicians like Hope Masike, Rute Mbangwa, Clare Nyakujara, Rudo Chasi, M’Afriq, Dudu Manhenga and Zanele Manhenga took turns to entertain audiences and remind everyone present how important women are in our society.

Poets that include Roxy “Xapa” Mathazia, Batsirai Chigama, Charity Hutete and RuTendo DeNise also came with their verses to drive home various messages about the achievements of women.
The 2013 Theme for celebrations of the day around the world was The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.

Looking at the local arts industry, there are a number of female artists that have made an impact in the country and abroad. Names like Chiwoniso Maraire, Stella Chiweshe, Manhenga, Semina Mpofu, Shingisai Suluma and Danai Gurira come to mind when we mention success on the international scene.

On the local scene, artists like Cynthia “Flowchild” Marangwanda, Chigama, Olivia Charamba, Edith WeUtonga and Selmor Mtukudzi have been outstanding.

However, a closer look at emerging artists reveals that not many young girls are willing to take arts as a profession.

The arts sector continues to be dominated by male artists and there doesn’t seem to be keen interest among young girls to take the industry as a source of livelihood.

Despite efforts from talent-scouting projects like Children’s Performing Arts Workshop and Umoja to train young female artists of various genres to master their art, male artists continue to be on the forefront of the local industry.

The major problem is that the arts have been associated with certain stereotypes that dissuade female artists from taking their talents to a professional level.

Most women find comfort in pursuing other professions while others forfeit their talents to become housewives.

There have been numerous debates bordering on “morality” of certain arts disciplines when women are involved.

A good example is the vibrant dance sector that has seen many female artists forming dance groups. Most people view the dancers as women of loose morals even when most of them would simply be trying to make ends meet.

These are talented dancers that have chosen to make use of their talents to earn a living. Unfortunately, most of the places at which these dancers perform are not so decent and the dancers end up being corrupted for various reasons anchoring on poverty.

time we celebrated our own

When female sculptors like Colleen Madamombe and Agnes Nyanhongo took up sculpting, they were viewed as deviants and it took a lot of effort to convince the society that women could also be sculptors.

Because of these social expectations and prescriptions, most young girls are discouraged from pursuing arts professionally.

It is now time for the society to realise that women can also be successful artists and support their talents.

It does not make sense to celebrate the talents of the likes of Angelique Kidjo, Brick and Lace, Zahara and Madonna when they perform in the country yet we look down upon our own talented female artists.

Our local female artists risk being called all sorts of names because of their various arts genres yet they can make a living out of arts. Gurira is a good example. Because she grew up in the United States, the actress and playwright is living large from the arts. Would she be enjoying these fruits had she grown up in Zimbabwe?

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